Monday, 12 December 2011

Conceptualising Mitosis with Digital Microscopes

The introduction of laptops and digital microscopes into the IB Biology classroom, has offered rich opportunities for students to visualise and research cell structures. In this particular lesson, students were analyzing onion root cells and identifying cells at different stages of cell division or mitosis. The lesson was building and developing on previous understanding and is a transformative example of constructivist learning.

The video showcase below, explains the process and key learning outcomes.

Students were able to use the microscope to analyse the slide, and then capture images of cells at various stages of mitosis. These images were stored on their laptops for further analysis. The students all used simple annotation tools in Preview to highlight the chosen cell and then embedded these images into a table. (see example here) Later that tallied the number of cells they identified at each stage of divison. The process was part of a larger practical research assessment, as part of IB Biology curriculum.

The transformative aspect of this lesson was how the digital microscopes and the laptops enabled the teacher to give critical and timely feedback as students completed the practical. The teacher could look at the magnified image on the screen and help the student identify and classify cells. This is an important aspect of understanding Mitosis as many of the stages are blurry. This style of feedback is more difficult, if only one person can peer down the lens of the microscope at a time. The Motic Digital Microscopes still have the same traditional functionality, different lens etc so that student still acquire and practise the essential practical skills.

Thanks to Cathy Elliott and her lovely Grade 11 Biology class for being part of our showcase.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Dropbox Backup

So I was on boarding duty tonight, and I had a G11 student in meltdown due to lost work, from a system crash - the point is, this student, hard working, intelligent, well organised, had a major misconception of how to use both Dropbox and time machine... SO I asked her, you were working in Dropbox ... right? Wrong. But I tell you what, she will from now on. So I asked around, and all of the students I asked have the same confusion, and then it dawned me ... maybe, just maybe teachers do as well?

The problem is this:

Too many of you don't realise that you should be working in Dropbox, let me say that again.

(deep breath)

You should be working in Dropbox

Too many of you work in Documents or on the desktop (a very naughty habit), and maybe copy stuff into the Dropbox periodically, to backup, or maybe an external hard-drive which of course you don't do enough. 

There's no point placing loads of video/photos in there (you can use Time Machine for backing that stuff up) as you probably only have 2GB, well I say 'only' that's 2000 MB, which = about 2000 large Word Documents, so more than enough for you.

So, here's a little video I made, to walk you through this simple little process. It's only 4 minutes and 39 seconds minutes long, but it could well save you a great deal of stress/swearing/time recreating lost work, so it is well worth the investment. Trust me. I know. That's why I have no hair (on my head)

Friday, 9 December 2011

Guidance on Sharing Student Videos

At UWCSEA there will be opportunities where you want to share videos that students in your class have created. As a school we need to think carefully about the intended audience of any video creations and also the content of the video that is shared. These requirements will determine how we share student’s digital work with other students, parents, the wider UWCSEA community and also the general public.

We are in the process of reviewing all the options for sharing video and looking at a long term approach to using public video sharing sites like YouTube, but generally speaking at the moment (Dec 2011) YouTube should not be used by staff for sharing video. The exception to this is for official videos put out by the Communications Department. Alternative methods for sharing video are provided below. Some of the reasons for not using YouTube are provided at the end of this document.

ScenariosSharing ideas
A student’s personal video reflection.
  • Students can upload a video to their personal school Picasa Account and embed this into Mahara.
  • Uploaded as a video file and shared through Google Docs.
A student’s video for a formal assessment
  • A personal video could be submitted through Studywiz as an assignment to the teacher.
Student’s personal video for peer assessments
  • Uploaded to a Studywiz Gallery so that other students could comment.
  • Uploaded to a class Picasa Online Album so that others can comment. Linked from Picasa Album into a private class blog.
Student’s video is shared with parents.
  • Could upload video to a Picasa Album, and then share a private link via email to parents.
Sharing student work with the UWCSEA community or publicising College events
  • Some video that are intended for the general public should be embedded within our school website - you can email the Communications Department to discuss how to share the video. Need to check with students and maybe parents informing them on how a video is being shared.
Sharing student work to the general public
  • Generally student work should not be shared on public forums such as YouTube. We can look at sharing videos for a public guidance through our school Vimeo video account.

Basics of Sharing Video.

Generally you will want to share student work with members of the class and treat the group as a private audience. The easiest way to achieve this is to use a staff Google Account and your online Picasa Album. You can upload any video straight from your iPhoto album on your laptop to your Picasa album. This album is linked to your GApps account. Once you have published the video you can then set the privacy settings and share with students in your class. Here is a short tutorial on sharing video.

Some Issues with YouTube

  • Lack of control on comments on videos - many, many comments are inappropriate.
  • Links to to inappropriate videos - one or two clicks will get you to inappropriate videos regardless of where you start.
  • Lack of general control - we cannot control access or effectively remove videos if necessary
  • We have reasonable alternatives available.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Five steps to becoming a Google Docs Ninja

The Google Docs suite has become such an integral part of a teachers toolkit at UWCSEA. Some Grade 12 students would suggest we use it too much :) The guide below might help you use some of the other features available within Google Docs and to tweak your usage. Did you know that you can add comments to a document, or use a form to collect student sign up details? Become a Google Docs Ninja in just five steps.

If you want to go further, and learn more about Google Docs you can visit the Google Apps Education Center and walk through numerous self-guided activities. If you wish to do the tests to become an accredited Google Teacher the school will happily pay the costs. See the Digital Literacy Coaches for more detail.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Show me the Learning - IB Chemistry

I have recently been working with Simon Dean and a group of amazing Grade 11 students, on the concept of "Show me the Learning". Simon's initial discussion was around finding a way to truly discover if student's have been able to grasp and to explain concepts in Chemistry. As an Economist's teacher, I am always grappling with this same concept. Students can now effectively plagiarize understanding from books and the internet without really being able to apply conceptual knowledge to the real world.

I believe that technology, is an amazing tool students can use to demonstrate understanding, and for teachers to see and hear how students apply and break down concepts. By using specific tools, teachers can understand some of the students metacognition as they explain an idea. This offers the opportunity for very effective formative feedback.

In Simon's Chemistry class, students had to deconstuct a complex idea into simple language, effectively at level of instruction so that others could understand. This kind of idea of prevalent in a series of videos produced in a Commoncraft Genre. The student were also inspired by the series of RSA Animate presentations that are truly creative. Students had to create a presentation that combined the use of visuals and including an essential oral narration.

The following video is a showcase of the class and a reflection on the technique.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Grade 5 Myth Movies

Andrew Finn has been doing some exciting work with his Grade 5 class.

During term one grade 5 were involved in writing myths as part of their Voice unit. A strong recommendation from the Writing Workshop staff development was that children are given the opportunity to publish and celebrate their writing in a range if diverse formats. 

5AnF spent several lessons in the ICT Lab converting their personal myth stories into movies. 

They began the process by speaking the myth into the iPod touch using the Voice Memo App, which then then emailed to their teacher for reviewing. 

Following feedback, and further editing of their myths, the children then recorded their narration a second time and these were then added directly to their story boards using Adobe Premier Elements on PCs.  Students imported the audio track first, and then edited their video to fit the recording. 

A key focus for the children was to select images and music that held significance for their myth, and to ensure the timing of images correlated with the audio. Cooperative learning was also a large aspect of this work as many students we very capable with the selected software while others were not.

Finally students uploaded their videos to share with each other and comment, via a Picasa web album that their teacher shared with them.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Grade 5 Arts Festival & Keynote

What do you get if you combine, 200 students, 9 teachers, 4 art teachers, 24 Macbooks, over 3 weeks with 1 digital literacy coach? 15 minutes of animated video to use as backdrop for the Grade 5 Voices performance.

Students worked independently to import scans of their own artwork into Keynote. Here they used the Alpha tool to remove the background, and then utlised a variety of animation controls (builds and actions) to create their masterpieces. The final collection of videos were stitched together in iMovie, with an edited score from our dance choreographer to create the final video that was used as the backdrop.

Here a few snippets from the three main sections of the performance.

GoogleSites & ActivInspire in Grade 4

This video showcases one of the many websites created by Grade 4 students for their 'Balance of Nature' unit. Students began the unit by creating a food chain in ActivInspire, duplicating the page, and then editing it to become a food web, from the same biome as the food chains. 

This is a powerful example of 'Assessment for Learning', as students began creating their own section of the Grade 4 Google site at the early stages of this unit, and then with regular formative feedback, developed their site into the final product. 

Students wrapped up the site by taking home an iPod Touch which they used to record an 'Elevator Pitch*' ie, a message communicated in less than 30 seconds, related to the Action element from their chosen line of inquiry. These videos were uploaded to Google Docs, and then inserted into their GoogleSite, using a recently added Google Doc Video feature. 

*Elevator pitch
An elevator pitch (or elevator speech or statement) is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

ActivInspire in Grade 5

This short video shows how Grade 5 used the multi-purpose application ActivInspire for the summative assessment in the Where on Earth Unit.

A common assumption with this software is to assume that its sole purpose is for it to be used with an IWB (Interactive White Board) but it is, in actual fact, a very powerful, general purpose piece of software with a magnificent range of uses as a standalone application, running on a PC or Mac.

One very useful way to use this tool is to create a flipchart to use with a class, begin it with class from an IWB, save it to a central location for the students open and continue working on the flipchart on their own.